How once-reluctant footballer was convinced to stay in the sport following career with Blackpool, Derby County and Rotherham United

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Ex-Blackpool defender Shaun Barker has remained involved in football since his retirement back in 2018 but at one point he wasn't fully committed to a career in the sport at all.

The 41-year-old, who was at Bloomfield Road between 2006 and 2009, admits as a youngster coming through at Rotherham United he was thinking about the things he could do if he wasn’t playing- with travelling and studying both being on his agenda.

Barker went on to make 395 professional appearances during his time as player, which also included stints with Derby County and Burton Albion, but states it still came as a surprise to some that he chose to remain in the game after hanging up his boots.

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"Anyone that knows me would’ve heard me say ‘I can’t wait to finish’ and ‘once I finish I will be away from football,’” he said.

Shaun Barker (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)Shaun Barker (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Shaun Barker (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

"The life I was expected to live was very different to that of a professional footballer. I always described myself as a student who played football for a living, I just had no desire at all when I was coming through at Rotherham.

"I was almost disappointed when I was offered a pro because me and my wife were thinking about going interrailing around Europe, and if I didn’t do that I wanted to go to uni to study- I probably would’ve done art or media.

"Football was a strange path for me to take, it wasn’t one I was comfortable with or endeared to at the start. I didn’t make any effort to go into it apart from being competitive when it came to playing and training.

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"As soon as I started playing professionally I wasn’t interested in the same way, it became a job and less fun. It was less of the football I knew growing up and became more serious.”

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Barker now works as an U18s coach for Burton and does match day media work for Derby.

"Everyone tells you to plan ahead and think about your next step but that wasn’t really me, I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to do,” he added.

"As long as I’m happy, I don’t really care what I do for work, I would’ve been happy working at Tesco or being a labourer as long as I was content.

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"When I retired at Burton, I went straight into the academy. Dan Robinson, the academy manager at the time, carefully and skilfully directed me. It started off part-time, seeing where I fitted with the U18s, and then after a few months I went full-time. I really enjoyed it, there’s some great staff and it’s a real family orientated club- everyone chips in together.

"In terms of the media stuff, once again I wasn’t expecting to go into it. Everyone said I spoke quite well in interviews and I used to do pieces for the paper. At Rams TV there’s this wonderful setup- it’s top end in terms of the studio and the cameras. They reached out to me and asked if I’d be a pundit, but then Covid hit and I was then doing the co-comms and the post match stuff as well.

"To still be associated with two clubs that I played for shows people think well enough of you to keep you around.”

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